State legislators appear to be stalled on creating new Uber insurance requirements

BY JIM TURNER
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE – Proposals to create new insurance requirements for app-based transportation services like Uber and Lyft appear to be idling as the legislative session nears the end.

Sean Williams freelances as a Uber driver in Illinois. The transportation business Uber expanded to the Daytona Beach and other Florida cities last year. Drivers use their own vehicles to transport riders.(NUCCIO DINUZZO/CHICAGO TRIBUNE/TNS)
Sean Williams freelances as a Uber driver in Illinois. The transportation business Uber expanded to the Daytona Beach and other Florida cities last year. Drivers use their own vehicles to transport riders.
(NUCCIO DINUZZO/CHICAGO TRIBUNE/TNS)

The House and Senate have moved forward with bills that have differences, including about whether local governments should be prevented from regulating the services. The House bill includes what is known as “pre-emption” of local regulation.

“There is no indication that the Florida Senate is interested in the pre-emption provisions of the House bill,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican who is sponsoring the House measure.

“And without those I don’t know if we’ll be able to move any meaningful legislation regarding rideshare.”

Liability talk
The House on April 24 and Monday postponed Gaetz’ measure (HB 817) as the two sides continue to seek common ground on the fast-growing “transportation network companies.”

Both the House and Senate proposals would require the companies to provide at least $1 million in liability coverage for death, bodily injury and property damage while passengers are in the vehicles, which are not owned by the companies but by the drivers.

But the House and Senate remain apart in terms of overall insurance coverage and other aspects of the services.

Senate sponsor David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, expressed optimism on April 23 about the chances of advancing the “Uber” bill after the Senate voted 28-12 to approve his version (SB 1298).

“The most critical issue is to insure that citizens on the road are protected with insurance coverage,” Simmons said.

Gap coverage
Both bills address a “gap” period, which involves the time between when a driver is notified about a having a customer to pick up and the actual pickup. The Senate bill would set the minimum automobile liability insurance during a gap at $125,000 for death and bodily injury per person.

The gap coverage would also require $250,000 for death and bodily injury per incident, and $50,000 for property damage, the same as for cabs and limos that are regulated by local governments.

The House has lower limits for the gap of $50,000 for death and bodily injury per person, $100,000 for death and bodily injury per incident and $25,000 for property damage.

Gaetz contends the commercial policy shouldn’t be in place until a passenger is in the car. An Uber or Lyft vehicle is only being used when requested, he said. That is unlike a taxi, which is used to drive around finding passengers when it is not transporting people.

Background check
The House effort would prohibit local governments or special districts from imposing taxes or license requirements, as taxi and limo companies now face.

“We aren’t removing regulations,” Gaetz told House members on April 23. “As a matter of fact, this 28-page bill sets forth a series of regulations that will apply uniformly across the state.”

The House bill would require people who want to drive for Uber or Lyft to undergo a type of background check known as a “level 2” screening and would prohibit drivers who have one major moving violation in the prior three years or are listed on a national sex-offender public website.

Another difference remains that the Senate bill would require the coverage come from carriers that are members of the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association. The House proposal would allow coverage to be provided by lightly regulated surplus-lines insurance companies.

Simmons called that a “technicality.”

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